How to take a screenshot on Mac

Since Macs don’t have a PrintScreen button like in Windows, many Mac beginners don’t know how to take a screenshot on Mac. In fact, this is simple, and there are even several ways to do the task. But first, let’s see what each symbol and key means:

  • ⇧ – Shift
    ⌘ – Command
    ^ – Control
    ⌥ – Option (Alt in Windows)
    ⇥ – Tab
    ⌫ – Delete

  • ⌤ – Enter
    ⎋ – Escape
    ←↑→↓ – Arrow Keys
    fn – Function key
    ⏎ – Return
    ⇪ – Caps Lock


1. Key shortcuts to take a screenshot on Mac

MacOS provides hotkeys to carry out any action and system task. When you use them, the speed of your work on a Mac increases significantly.

Shift + Command + 3 – take a shot of a full Desktop screen.
Shift + Command + 4 – take a screenshot of a certain area (choose with a mouse) of your Desktop.
Shift + Command + 4 + Space – take a screenshot of a certain window of the Desktop.

If you need to copy the screenshot to the clipboard for further insertion into any graphics or text editor, use the following hotkeys:

Shift + Command +3 + Control – save a screenshot of a full Desktop to the Clipboard.
Shift + Command + 4 + Control – save a screenshot of a certain area (choose with a mouse) to the Clipboard.
Shift + Command + 4 + Space + Control – save a screenshot of a certain Window to the Clipboard.

Then press Command + V to paste the picture. You can also do this via the Menu → Edit → Paste.


2. How to take screenshots on Mac with Grab

If you are used to performing tasks with a mouse and don’t like remembering keyboard shortcuts, you can use a standard macOS Grab. Find it via Spotlight or in the Launchpad.

Taking screenshots on Mac

Grab is extremely simple to use; however, it has a wide range of functions. Here are the main ones.

screenshots with grab

As you can see, it’s simple. There are four modes of “shooting,” each of which provides shortcuts:

Shift + Command + A – Selection (take a screenshot of the selected area)
Shift + Command + W – Window (take a screenshot of any of the currently open windows)
Command + Z – Screen (take a screenshot of the entire screen)
Shift + Command + Z – Timed Screen (take a screenshot of the entire screen timer)

After a screenshot is made, the Grab window will appear with a screenshot. Now you can save it in the right folder.
It should also be noted that Grab can work with several screenshots; it is possible to take several screenshots, and then compare them and choose the best one. Grab also lets you copy your images to the clipboard by pressing Command + C.


3. Changing screenshots settings with Terminal commands*

  • When you make a screenshot, by default it is saved to the desktop. You can change the location for storing the screenshots via Terminal. Go to Applications →Utilities → Terminal and use the following command:

Defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Pictures
Killall SystemUIServer

Here ~/Pictures is the path to the folder.

Restore settings:

Defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Desktop
Killall SystemUIServer

change folder where screenshots are stored

  • By default all screenshots’ names start with “Screenshot” You can change the screenshots’ names via the following commands:

Defaults write com.apple.screencapture name “the desired name”
Killall SystemUIServer

Here the “desired name” is the name of a new image.

Restore settings:

Defaults write com.apple.screencapture name “Screenshot”
Killall SystemUIServer

  • You can even change the screenshot file format. By default, Mac saves the screenshots in PNG. To change it, use the command:

Defaults write com.apple.screencapture type format
Killall SystemUIServer

The “format” may be one of the following: jpg, tiff, pdf, png, bmp.

*Here you can find more useful Terminal Commands for Mac.


That’s all. Hope you got all the information you needed about how to take screenshots on Mac with built-in system tools. There are also lots of great third-party programs for this task; however, most Mac users are satisfied with the ways described above. And our last piece of advice: Remove unneeded screenshots regularly, as each of the files may take more than 1 MB of memory.

take screenshot on Mac

As a result, your disk may contain gigabytes of unused image files. You can also check your disk usage and find the biggest files and folders with a utility Disk Expert. Find out how by clicking on the link how to check disk space on Mac.

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Disk Expert

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